Friday 19 July 2024
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Your guide to taking the next steps in nursing

Your guide to taking the next steps in nursing

Are you a registered nurse considering the next step in your career? Read on to find out why you should consider advancing your career to the next level.

You decided to embark on a career in nursing. You graduated from a college or university with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). You passed the NCLEX-RN exam and qualified as a registered nurse (RN). You went to work in various clinical settings, such as hospitals, medical offices, nursing homes, and other facilities. Now that you’ve done all of that, you may be wondering what’s next in your nursing career.

Fortunately, there are many options available to registered nurses who are thinking about taking the next steps in their careers. What’s more, many of those options give you the opportunity for career growth and higher salary.

Popular career paths for nurses

Forbes outlines some of the most popular career paths for licensed RNs and/or those with a BSN. These include the following:

  • Nurse anesthetist
  • Nurse educator
  • Nurse midwife
  • Nurse practitioner

Nurse anesthetist

A nurse anesthetist administers and monitors anesthesia throughout medical procedures. The median annual salary for a nurse anesthetist is $195,600. The projected job growth from 2021 to 2031 for this position is +12%. It is an important job that requires strong attention to detail.

Nurse educator

A nurse educator teaches nursing to students at the college level. The median annual salary for this position is $77,400. Projected job growth (2021–2031) is +22%. As well as instructing students, nurse educators are often involved in research.

Nurse midwife

A nurse midwife provides care and support during the entire birthing process. Their median annual salary is $112,800, and the projected job growth for nurse midwives is +7%. Nurse midwives may run their own business, working independently of a patient’s healthcare team or as part of it.

Nurse practitioner

A nurse practitioner (NP) is an advanced-level nurse who can provide medical care at all levels. The median annual salary for an NP is $120,700. The projected job growth for this position is +46%. Nurse practitioners are qualified to diagnose and treat illnesses, injuries, and other conditions. They also promote health among their patients and provide routine screenings and well-checks.

While a nurse anesthetist earns the highest median annual salary, an NP has significantly higher projected job growth (+46%) than any of the positions mentioned above. An NP also has the second-highest median annual salary at $120,700.

Becoming an NP is clearly an attractive option for RNs considering the next steps in their nursing careers. A career as a nurse practitioner not only enables you to earn a higher salary, but – with +46% projected job growth – it also allows you access to more opportunities than a nurse educator or nurse midwife, for example.

What’s the difference between a nurse practitioner and a family nurse practitioner?

A career as a nurse practitioner gives you the opportunity to specialize in an area such as pediatrics or orthopedics. Pediatric NPs or orthopedic NPs are two examples of the different types of NP specialties. One of the most common types is a family nurse practitioner (FNP). The difference between an FNP and other NPs is that family nurse practitioners have a much broader scope. FNPs care for patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly.

What does a family nurse practitioner do?

A family nurse practitioner’s wide focus on care means they are often the primary care provider for whole families, diagnosing conditions and treating them. There is a wide range of duties within the FNP job description. Some of these include assessing and diagnosing health conditions, providing primary health care (emphasizing preventative care, such as encouraging patients to quit smoking), prescribing medications and other therapies, and making appropriate referrals when needed.

How do you become a family nurse practitioner?

Below is a list of the various steps you must take to become a family nurse practitioner.

Step 1: Get your nursing degree

The first step is to complete your Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Graduating with a BSN requires you to complete 4–5 years of full-time schooling at a college or university. There are Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) degree programs that allow you to obtain your degree in a shorter timeframe (approximately 18 months), but you must already hold a bachelor’s degree in another subject to be eligible.

Step 2: Get your RN license

The second step is to pass the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) exam. This is the USA’s standardized test for prospective registered nurses. Once you have passed the NCLEX-RN exam, you may become licensed as an RN.

Step 3: Work on the job as an RN

The third and most invaluable step is to gain on-the-job experience working as an RN in clinical settings such as hospitals, medical offices, and nursing homes. Working for 2–3 years in a clinical setting will give you the necessary knowledge and skills to take the next steps in becoming a family nurse practitioner.

Step 4: Get your FNP master’s degree

The fourth step is to complete a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). This will take an additional 2–3 years of schooling and must be obtained via accredited college or university programs.

There are many MSN degree programs available throughout the country. For example,Texas Woman’s University (TWU) in Denton, TX, offers an accredited online Master of Science in Nursing — Family Nurse Practitioner (MSN-FNP). TWU’s MSN-FNP is one of the nation’s top nursing graduate programs with a very high nursing standard. It boasts a 90% first-time FNP licensure pass rate in 2021 and helps place you at a clinical site convenient to where you live.

Furthermore, Texas Woman’s University provides a great deal of helpful information on how to become a family nurse practitioner. This information will help you make an informed decision when considering the next steps in your nursing career.

Step 5: Become certified in family practice

The fifth and final step to becoming a family nurse practitioner after earning your MSN degree is to become certified in family practice. There are a couple of ways to do this: either via the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board’s FNP-C examination or the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s FNP-BC examination.

How to make the successful transition from registered nurse (RN) to family nurse practitioner (FNP)

Once you have taken the above steps to become a qualified family nurse practitioner, you may begin the transition from registered nurse to FNP. Transitioning from RN to FNP can be a very rewarding experience that brings new challenges and responsibilities.

As an FNP, you will earn a higher salary and be held in higher regard than an RN. Those are not the only reasons why becoming an FNP is such an attractive prospect for nurses considering the next steps in their careers, though. The newfound independence and responsibilities that come with the FNP position are what drive many RNs to take the career steps outlined above.

In the transition from RN to FNP, you will go from following directives to giving them. Whereas an RN performs diagnostic tests, an FNP might also be responsible for ordering and interpreting them. Improving your leadership skills is essential to becoming a successful FNP. At the same time, you must also draw on your prior experience as an RN.

Below are some of the top suggestions from Texas Woman’s University on making a successful transition from RN to FNP.

Find a mentor

Finding a mentor can be one of the most effective ways to ensure a smooth and successful transition from RN to FNP. A mentor can help in many ways: they can build your confidence, enhance your pre-existing assessment and diagnostic skills, and give you more exposure to clinical situations. Perhaps most importantly, they also act as models for behavior.

There are various settings for you to find a mentor. These include the workplace, nursing schools, and nursing organizations.

Once you’ve found a mentor, it’s important to make the most of it. Of course, a successful mentorship requires both parties to be committed. On your part as the mentee, it’s recommended you establish goals, communicate often, be open, and maintain a long-term focus. When it comes to mentorships, it’s helpful to think in terms of the long haul. It’s then easier to build meaningful relationships that will hopefully last a lifetime.

Understand the expectations

Make sure you understand the FNP role and what it takes to step up from RN to FNP. Be clear on your responsibilities and know both the differences and similarities between the respective roles.

Understand the following parts of the family nurse practitioner position: your job description, practice expectations, standards of care, team structure, performance evaluation, and support resources.

Knowledge is power. Understanding your role and the expectations surrounding it will help you make a successful transition from RN to FNP.

Build strong professional relationships

Collaboration among healthcare professionals is essential to providing the best possible care to patients. Building relationships as a new FNP with your colleagues not only helps you in terms of knowledge and personal development but also helps your patients. Collaborating with colleagues means you can leverage each other’s knowledge, thereby improving patient care and practice.

Developing emotional maturity, understanding different perspectives, and avoiding compassion burnout are vital to forming and nurturing professional relationships in the healthcare context.

Use your prior nursing experience to your advantage

Understanding your strengths and weaknesses from your time as an RN is helpful as you start your new role as an FNP. Although the two roles differ, there are similarities between them. Use these similarities, such as the setting or the clientele, to your advantage as an FNP.

Remember why you wanted to become an FNP

Reflecting on what motivated you to become a family nurse practitioner in the first place is a great way to instill confidence and maintain focus in your new role. Motivators such as helping people, progressing to the next level in nursing, and having more say on patient care all play a part in nurses considering the next steps in their careers. It’s worth keeping those motivators in mind when transitioning to an FNP position, as they can help you see the bigger picture and improve your job satisfaction.

Take the next step in your nursing career

As this article shows, there are a variety of reasons why nurses consider taking the next steps in their nursing careers. For some, it’s personal development. For others, it’s professional development. Some may consider a higher salary to be most important, while others may want greater autonomy in their roles. Each of these considerations is valid.

Whatever might be driving you to consider the next step in your nursing career, hopefully this article has shown you the value of the family nurse practitioner position and the variety of duties and responsibilities it offers. With a high median annual salary and high projected job growth, making the move from registered nurse to family nurse practitioner will be seen as both an attractive and smart career prospect by many.

Taking the next steps on the path to becoming an FNP will enable you to develop the skills needed to become a more rounded, holistic primary care provider. You will also build on and support the clinical expertise gained from your time as a registered nurse, sharpen your ability for critical thinking, and improve your leadership skills. Progressing your career as a family nurse practitioner not only benefits your personal development as a healthcare professional but also supports the entire patient experience.